It's tough selling a picture these days even nominally related to war, so in the blitzkrieg of promotional press for Charlie Wilson's War we were reminded again and again of one simple fact: This one stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Yes, it may be about the U.S.'s dubious involvement in another war in the Middle East, in a season of Iraq movies that have failed to spark the viewership's imagination or interest...but this one stars Tom and Julia. No worries. Not once in this would-be political romp do we forget that the man and woman before us, embodying such outré real-life characters as a hard-partying congressman and a born-again Houston socialite, are anyone other than the beloved institutions of Tom and Julia.
Charlie Wilson's War tells the true story of how Texan Congressman Wilson (Hanks), best known for boozing and keeping company with Playboy Playmates, managed to raise $1 billion with the help of socialite Joanne Herring (Roberts) to secretly fund Afghanistan's mujahedeen in their fight against the invading Soviet Union in the early '80s. In the hands of writer Aaron Sorkin, the historical context and current affairs are laid out clearly and engagingly. That said, there's a hokeyness afoot, and Mike Nichols' direction is flat. This is a visually and emotionally soft affair, and the material calls for something with far sharper edges.